Sandro Mezzadra will participate in the Transeuropa Festival in Bologna on the 12th May, in the event Towards a European Charter of the Commons.
We interviewed him on the current challenges Europe is facing.
by Giampaolo Faella
Professor Mezzadra, having witnessed the previous editions of the Festival, how do you see this event’s role in a period of so much uncertainty and transition for European people?
I would suggest – of course with a much overused expression – that it is a moment of crisis for the European project, rather than simply a transition or a period of uncertainty. Therefore I think there is a challenge for all of us; for you and for those like me, who have been now for several years trying to imagine politics inside a European space. This challenge lies in thinking radically about this crisis. But I do not want to stick to generalities: the problem is that many of us put their reasoning about Europe and their European practices ‘inside but against’ a European institutional space. Consequently, in my opinion the issue that should be addressed during the next festival is the following “Is it still possible to do so, or shall we adjourn our ways of reasoning and take leave, eventually, of that institutional space, in order to rethink it radically?” I believe this should be at the very core of next festival’s debates.
In your work you depict migration as a creative power that lies inside economic, social and cultural structures. A force that emerged particularly starting from the many migrants’ riots exploded in Europe, from Rosarno to Vincennes’ turmoil. How would you describe these outcropping subjectivities? What do they bring to the meaning of European citizenship?
This issue should be contextualized. I began to speak, among others, of migration as a social movement about ten years ago, in an effort to make room for a political action able to match up to the transnational dimension of the migratory movements, and the challenges that I believed they were raising to citizenship. Back then to talk about citizenship meant referring to European citizenship in a very precise way. The 1990s proved to be a period of great vitality in the intellectual, political and even media debate on the theme, because at that time, European citizenship aroused great expectations. Transnational citizenship evoked the chance to free oneself from the heaviest of nationalism’s heritage. It looked like a new ground for social fight had emerged. As I wrote then, citizenship was not a goal, but rather the ground for a contestation. We managed to identify, then, a few steps that we thought were crucial points to be forced through, as we did with resident citizenship campaign. Though I had my reservations about it, I recognised it as an important element in order to enrich a conflictual field. We can’t forget, moreover, the reflection about overcoming the juridical feature of European citizenship as a second level citizenship, and therefore about the possibility of a direct naturalization. Anyway those issues seem to me, today, unlikely to come up again. That’s why I go back to the previous point: the need of a moment for a radical thinking on what is changed, on the new tools and languages that we need today.
Many young people in North Africa look at Europe as a model, while, here in Europe, many, more or less overtly, hope in a social upheaval, comparable in intensity to what is happening there. Are both of them cherishing illusions or has this generation really a common cause to fight for?
Let’s start from recalling that illusions, imagination and fantasies, often have real effects that are not less concrete for the mere fact that they were originated by illusions or fantasies; it seems to me that last year we saw exactly this kind of dynamics, in which young people played off the cushion between the two Mediterranean banks. I think there are still “rebounds” going on, in Maghreb and in Mashrek as well as in Europe. Notwithstanding we should also analyze how fictitious illusions can be. Here it seems to me that there is a real fundamental issue: shaping a Euro-Mediterranean space once again can’t be simply casting it in the current partnerships or agreements. Room for freedom and equality asks for a correction of the deep imbalance between the North and South of the Mediterraneanin terms of freedom of circulation.
Sandro Mezzadra is Associate Professor of Political Theory at the University of Bologna. He is on the editorial boards of Studi Culturali, Scienza & Politica and Filosofia Politica. He is the co-editor of The Borders of Justice with Étienne Balibar and Ranabir Samaddar (Temple University Press 2011). Border as Method, a book he is currently writing with Brett Neilson, will come out in 2012 from Duke University Press. He has written widely on the areas of migration, capitalism, colonialism and post-colonialism, Italian operaismo and autonomist Marxism.